Let’s not sugar coat it: the last few years have been hell on earth. Political unrest and civil unrest along with racial tensions boiling to the point of eruption, all set to the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic. It hasn’t been pretty. And if you’ve struggled to feel positive throughout it all, that’s very normal. In fact, it’s statistically common. According to Gallup’s 2021 Emotions Report, negative feelings overall have been on a steady increase over the last decade. Feeling positive is starting to feel, well, impossible. But, it’s also the one thing that can get us through almost any struggle. Waiting for the world to change in order for emotions to change might result in a pretty long wait. Being positive is about controlling your perspective, even when you can’t control circumstances. So, at a time when we need it more than ever, here are ways to stay positive.
Ask Yourself What Could Go Right
If you have a habit of going into situations and asking yourself what could go wrong, flip that. Focus on what could go right. Maybe you go into a social situation where you’ll meet new people and typically worry you’ll have an altercation or won’t like anybody. Flip that and think, what if I make a new friend? What if I make someone’s day? What if I make a new career connection? What if I eat great food and laugh? What if I just get to be in a pretty environment?
Recall Times You Were Pleasantly Surprised
Prove your negative thinking wrong by looking to the past. There were probably many times when you thought the worst would happen, and then not only did that turn out to be false, but something great happened instead. Make a point to recall these experiences and even write them down if that helps. When you’re going into unpredictable situations and those negative thoughts creep in, look at this list.
Cultivate A Positive Network
The people we surround ourselves with greatly impact the way we look at the world. Groupthink is a powerful thing, and if the people around you often say negative things and have a pessimistic outlook, that is bound to affect the way you think. Pay close attention to the words and attitudes of the people in your life. Spend more time with those who think and speak positively, and less time with those who are negative. Positivity and negativity are infectious, after all.
Spread It If You Don’t Have It
Sometimes, it might feel like you can’t do anything to improve your circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless in spreading positivity. Think of a way to improve somebody else’s day when you’re struggling to improve your own. Drop a kind note to someone going through a rough time. Handle an errand for a loved one who is overwhelmed. Bring food or flowers to a neighbor, just because. Watching your positive act brighten someone else’s day will make you feel more empowered to brighten your own day.
Do A Gratitude Meditation
All of the blessings in the world are useless if we do not recognize that they are blessings. Without gratitude, we have nothing. In fact, research from Harvard Medical School says that gratitude correlates with feelings of happiness. So make a gratitude list. Do this weekly, daily or even several times a day when you’re really going through it. When you challenge yourself to make a list of 20 things for which you’re grateful – from the big things to the small – you’ll quickly realize there’s a lot to be positive about. That list might go far beyond 20 things.
Take Care Of Your Body
Sleep deprivation can lead to feelings of depression or make pre-existing depression worse. Dehydration leads to brain fog. And poor quality food can leave use feeling sluggish. So, at the very least, sleep enough, hydrate yourself and eat well. Start with the foundation of a healthy body and from there you can cultivate a healthy mind.
Identify What You Can Control
Sometimes, negativity arises when we solely focus on what we cannot control – and these days, there’s a lot of that. But thinking only about things beyond our control takes us to a dead end and leaves us feeling pessimistic. In any given situation that you’d like to change, ask yourself what you can control about it. Then, focus only on that. If sitting near a rude coworker leaves you in a bad mood, you probably can’t change that person’s attitude but you can sit somewhere else, or simply wear headphones to tune them out.
Savor The Small Stuff
There are little moments of joy to be had everywhere we look – we just have to pay attention. Next time you sit down to simply eat a meal, savor every bite. Think about how good it tastes. Think about how fortunate you are to be able to access food the moment you are hungry. Think about the nice texture of the toasted bread or the cooling feeling of the drink in your mouth. We all experience thousands of pleasurable sensations every day that we take for granted. Pausing to appreciate them can bring a lot of joy.